The Nashville Predators have made it to the NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Finals. And they had the exact same record as the New York Islanders! The Isles could have been in the same boat, right? Wrong.
At the end of the 2016-17 NHL season, both the New York Islanders and the Nashville Predators had a 41-29-12 record for 94 points. The Predators made the playoffs while the Islanders missed out by a single point.
Now that the Nashville Predators have made the NHL Stanley Cup Playoff finals the question of “could the Isles have gone that far?” arises. The simple answer is: not at all.
Sure they had the exact same record in the regular season but that’s where the similarities end between the two teams.
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Looking at some basic stats and a few more advanced ones show just how different these teams played and how the Isles were in no shape to make noise in the playoffs. While the Predators were a sleeping dog entering the postseason.
The Difference in the Numbers
In 82 games the New York Islanders held a -1 goal differential with 241 goals for and 242 against. The Predators were +16 with 240 goals for and 224 against. The Preds scored just as many goals, but let in far less. A testament to their defensive structure and rigidity.
The Isles were a -1.7 in shots per game differential while the Predators were a +1.1. A simple way to explain the significance is that more shot for than against lead to more expected goal scoring opportunities.
Which is confirmed by Corsica.Hockey‘s expected goals for (XGF60) and expected goals against (XGA60) stats.
Again, the Predators owe that to their defensive structure and ability to get the puck going out of their zone quickly and headed the other way. With a 51.36% Corsi-For on the season, the Predators ranked fourth in the regular season. The Isles were 28th with a terrible 47.79% Corsi-For.
With a 51.36% Corsi-For on the season, the Predators ranked fourth in the regular season. The Isles were 28th with a terrible 47.79% Corsi-For. Cementing just how dominant the Predators could be during the regular season.
The Predators were winning games they were expected to win based on what they were doing on the ice. The Isles were winning despite that. It’s not a sustainable way to win games. Eventually, your luck runs out.
Combine these analytics with a goalie that’s playing out of his mind right now and there’s no argument as to why the Predators are in the finals. Even if Halak or Greiss were playing out of their mind like Rinne, the team’s underlying numbers suggest that, even if they got in, it wouldn’t have ended well.